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Did a supermassive black hole just “burp”?

Two years after swallowing a star, the black hole has lit up again – but this time spat something out.

Astronomers are in awe of something that a supermassive black hole has accomplished.

Astronomers saw a star that approached the black hole too closely “spaghettify” in 2018 while they watched. This violent occurrence has been observed several times and is rather typical for black holes.

The same black hole, which is 665 million light years away from Earth, has lighted up once more, but nothing has been sucked into it this time. It was spit out again!

Artist’s illustration of tidal disruption event AT2019dsg where a supermassive black hole spaghettifies and gobbles down a star. Some of the material is not consumed by the black hole and is flung back out into space. Credit: DESY, Science Communication Lab.

One of the research associates at the Harvard and Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, Yvette Cendes, adds, “This caught us entirely by surprise – no one has ever seen anything like this before.” A recent research that analyzes the phenomena and was published in the Astrophysical Journal has Cendes as its primary author.

The researchers doesn’t know why it took so long for the black hole to start ejecting material, but they believe it is currently doing so at a speed that is roughly half that of light. Their findings might aid in the understanding of black hole feeding. Cendes compared this most recent occurrence to “burping” after a meal.

The incident was discovered after the team went back and looked at tidal disruption events (TDEs) from the previous several years. When a star travels near enough to a supermassive black hole for tidal forces to rip it apart, TDEs take place.

A strange reanimation of the black hole was observed in June 2021, according to radio data from the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico.

When something unexpected is discovered, Cendes remarked, “We applied for Director’s Discretionary Time on numerous telescopes, which is when you can’t wait for the typical cycle of telescope proposals to observe it.” “All of the applications were accepted right away.”

The TDE, also known as AT2018hyz, was observed at many wavelengths, but the radio observations were the most remarkable.

According to co-author Edo Berger, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and the CfA, “we have been investigating TDEs with radio telescopes for more than a decade and occasionally discover them glow in radio waves when they spew forth material while the star is initially being swallowed by the black hole.” On the other hand, AT2018hyz was radio silent for the first three years until suddenly becoming one of the most radio bright TDEs ever detected.

The supermassive black hole’s behavior was largely “unremarkable” prior to revisiting the TDE.

A TDE’s tidal forces cause an accretion flow in which the star is “spaghettified” by the black hole’s gravitational attraction. The material is stretched out and spirals around the black hole as it warms up, sending forth a flash that can be seen across the cosmos.

A portion of the material rotating around the black hole can occasionally be launched into space. Astronomers liken this to “messy eating” and seem to enjoy anthropomorphizing black holes. However, this outflow typically happens relatively soon after a TDE, not years afterwards as with this most recent emission.

And the “burp” of the supermassive black hole was enormous. TDE discharges typically move at a speed of 10% of light. This emission is moving at a speed equal to 50% of lightspeed.

According to Berger, “We have never seen such a considerable delay between the feeding and the outflow.” The following step is to investigate if this truly occurs more frequently and we have just not been seeing TDEs at an appropriate stage of their development.

Originally published by Cosmos

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